If you’re brushing through or styling your hair and notice uneven breaks, split ends and rough, dry hair texture, you don’t want to ignore it. Brittle hair is not normal—your hair should be smooth, soft and shiny, and it definitely shouldn’t be breaking off in places!
Brittle hair can look a little different for everyone, but it usually appears as dull, dry hair that has a tendency to break off at random points along the hair shaft. You may also be plagued by split ends and/or frizziness and hair with an abnormally rough or course texture.
Brittle hair does not develop overnight. Usually, it’s the result of long-term habits or exposure to harm that turns hair stiff and breakable. Unfortunately, numerous things can lead to this change in your hair. To fix your hair’s health and appearance, you’ll want to find out what’s causing the problem to begin with and solve it.
Top causes of brittle hair
- Heat damage: Do you use a flat iron, curling iron or blow dryer to style your hair every day? When’s the last time you used a heat protectant or checked the temperature settings on your hot tools? Using styling tools on your hair day after day can cause significant hair damage because of the excess heat you’re infusing directly into each strand. Heat-damaged hair tends to look and feel stiff, dry and brittle.
- Chemical damage: If you like to experiment with color on your hair or you get a routine dye job every one to two months, you’re likely exposing your strands to chemical damage. In order to lift the cuticle, penetrate the strand and replace the pigment of your hair, hair dye chemicals need to be pretty strong. Routine exposure to these chemicals—particularly without a lot of deep-conditioning treatments—can dry your hair out and leave it feeling stiff and breakable.
- Poor nutrition: In order to nourish your hair, you need to nourish your body with the right combination of nutrients. Eating an unhealthy diet that lacks key hair-healthy nutrients like protein, biotin, vitamin A and vitamin E can contribute to the slow degradation of your hair’s health and shine. Thankfully, you can turn this around pretty easily by making changes to your diet and taking hair-healthy supplements like biotin.
- Weather: When it comes to dry, brittle hair, winter is a common culprit. The dry air and harsh winds that accompany the changing of the seasons can zap moisture out your hair, as can the dry heat circulated inside by your furnace, leaving you with dehydrated and brittle locks.
- Your shampoo: Your shampoo should lather and trap dirt and excess oil on your scalp and strands, rinsing away the stuff that makes your hair look dirty or greasy. However, some shampoos can work too well, stripping your hair of its natural oils and leaving it dehydrated and dull looking. Clarifying shampoos are some of the biggest offenders here, but every shampoo might work a little differently on different people’s hair. You might be using one that’s too strong for your hair type, or you might be washing your hair too frequently. Try reducing the number of times you wash your hair per week, switching your shampoo or giving co-washing a try to breathe some life back into your hair.
- Thyroid problems: Your hormones play a major role in the health, loss and growth of your hair, and even subtle changes can affect your strands’ look and feel. While you might experience slight changes during your period, pregnancy or menopause, significant changes in hair texture and appearance might be caused by a thyroid disorder like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Both conditions are known to cause extremely dry and brittle hair, followed by sparse hair loss.
Restoring strength to brittle hair
If your hair is suffering from a lack of moisture, shine and strength, you don’t need to worry. Take a close look at how you treat your hair every day to see where you can improve in the caring and keeping of your strands. Cut back on hair coloring appointments and heat styling, shampoo less frequently and eat nutritious meals every day. You might also need to monitor your body for any symptoms of thyroid conditions, just to be safe.
With your bad hair habits taken care of, you can also begin restoring your hair’s health by implementing moisturizing treatments every week. Use a deep conditioning treatment after you shampoo and apply a weekly DIY hair mask to reintroduce moisture that might be lacking. If your strands are dehydrated during winter, consider adding a hair oil to your hair care routine to help lock in moisture and retain shine.
It may take time for your strands to heal or grow out after damage, but in time, you should be left with a shiny, smooth, healthy head of hair!